Thousands of people run with the bulls in Berks County; animal rights group objects

Animal rights group calls event abusive

Running with the bulls

MOHNTON, Pa. - Ever wanted to run with the bulls, but you can't travel all the way to Spain? Saturday, thousands of the brave -- or just plain crazy -- got to do it in Berks County. But animal rights groups are calling the event abusive.

It's called The Great Bull Run, an American version of the famous Running of the Bulls.

"We have seven runnings of the bulls throughout the day, just like in Pamplona, except not through city streets," said event founder Rob Dickens.

Berks County's Maple Grove Raceway hosted the event, one of only 10 spots in the U.S. so far. The Great Bull Run began last August in Virginia.

"Why did I do it?" said runner Ethan Battita. "Because I'm crazy."

"For the adrenaline rush," said runner Eric von der Lind. "Why would you not do this?"

In spite of the monumental task of obtaining liability insurance and regulatory clearance, Dickens said the idea was a no-brainer.

"I tried to run with the bulls in Spain in 2012, and I could not make it happen," he said, "and then I began to think, there must be hundreds of thousands of people just like me here in the U.S. that want to do this but can't make it happen. Why not bring something similar right here?"

Of course, running with bulls is extremely dangerous. Each participant must sign a liability waiver, and teams of medics stood by on the sidelines. At least 15 people have died in the original Running of the Bulls in Spain.

"We've had people get trampled. We've had broken bones, fractured hips," said Dickens. "No gorings, because in Spain they sharpen the bulls horns to make gorings easier."

Animal rights groups call the event abusive. PETA is suing to stop two Great Bull Run events in California, claiming it violates state bullfighting laws.

"These animals are terrified and they'll do anything to get away, including trampling the runners," said Alicia Woempner, PETA's special projects manager. "And of course they can also trample each other, collide with and injure one another, crash into the barriers, fall and break their legs."

Organizers insist the bulls are treated humanely.

"The animals are monitored at all times by a large animal veterinarian," said Dickens. "The animals are transported in accordance with all laws and regulations governing the transport of animals."

Few participants felt the animals are mistreated.

"They keep them safe," said runner Megan Reddinger. "They keep them like pets, so if you keep a pet and you're okay with that and you take care of them, there's nothing wrong with that."

In this race of nerves, it might just be the runners who need some protection.

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